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American Tintype: Hanan Townshend

Ever since I discovered The Thin Red Line in high school, I've been a fan of director Terrence Malick. A few months ago I was watching The Tree of Life and a particular piece of music resonated with me. I tried to locate it on the official soundtrack, but it was nowhere to be found. With some digging, I discovered it was composed by Hanan Townshend. If, like me, you're a completist, you can find all of Hanan's work on the film on iTunes.

I got in touch with Hanan to let him know how much I enjoyed his work. We exchanged emails around the time I was toying with the idea of making a film about Harry Taylor and the tintype photographic process. I'd never worked with a composer before, and Hanan's style seemed like a good match for the tone of the film. Though I'd intended for the film to be very small in scope and quickly put together, I decided to send footage to Hanan. We talked on the phone for a long time and luckily for me, he agreed to compose music for the film.

Working with Hanan has been an incredible experience. Previously, I've always edited footage around a piece of music. It was a real luxury to edit the film beforehand and have the music support what I'd put together visually. I loved the discussions of what instruments to use (Hanan first suggested the double bass as an anchor for the tone of the piece, since the wood and brass reminded him of view cameras and tintype photos) and it was a great opportunity for me to brush up on some classical music terms in an attempt to better communicate. The music gradually shifted and expanded, with Hanan always pushing the piece into new territory. To paraphrase a friend, a good collaborator will execute your vision, but a great one will surprise you with ideas you'd never have thought of yourself.

The footage above is courtesy of Russell Bush. Hanan composed the music for Russell's film The Vulture Project and a portion of American Tintype was recorded during Russell's session. Russell was kind enough to capture some of the process. You'll also be able to hear more of Hanan's work on Terrence Malick's upcoming film, To The Wonder.

I love the piece of music Hanan composed for American Tintype and I can't wait to work with him again. It's always a pleasure to discover people who are as friendly and hardworking as they are talented.